Val Clarke

Val Clarke, originally from Birmingham, is the Africa Mercy’s kindergarten teacher and will be on board for two years. The ship has a school onboard for the children of volunteer families.

When I was 17 years old (back in 2000) someone came to my church to speak about Mercy Ships. I was amazed by the work that they were doing. I had only been a Christian for a couple of years at that point but felt very strongly that God was saying this was for me! I found that a bit confusing at the time because I didn’t feel called to medicine, but it became clear as the years went by that it would be as a teacher. Finally, at the age of 34 (exactly 17 years since that Mercy Ships talk) I finally felt the nudge from God that it was time to go!

I have committed for a minimum of two years and so had to quit my long term teaching-post of 10 years, sell my car, a house full of furniture and store the rest of my earthly belongings (minus 2 backpacks!) in my Dad’s garage! I set up a just giving page to raise initial funds for flights and jabs. My school did a nautical-themed bake sale for me and lots of people gave generous one-off contributions or pledged to support me on an ongoing monthly basis. My monthly supporters range from £10 – £300 and it all makes a difference! Also, as a UK volunteer, I’m in a unique position compared to many of my fellow crew – we are able to claim Gift aid and that increases our supporter’s donations by 25% (currently). That’s really significant!

I'm gaining valuable teaching experience with an International Curriculum and International students. I'm gaining a whole group of new friends and its character building living in community this way!

Living on a ship with strangers is exciting and terrifying all at once! Now I’m here I think I’ve experienced the whole spectrum of emotions!  There’s definitely a transitional period involved but Mercy Ships are more than aware of that and have a whole Chaplaincy team set up and waiting to settle you.  We each get a Member Care plan tailored specifically to us, so I have felt very safe and supported from the very beginning of the application process.

If you are thinking about volunteering with Mercy Ships… Do it! You’re in really safe hands!  It’s a great way to work out if longer-term mission might be for you, as you experience another culture (and the ‘shock’ that might come with it) but then can come ‘home’ to the relatively familiar western culture of the ship.  It’s also great as, unlike many other overseas missionary opportunities, you will have a HUGE community of people around you!

Sign up to volunteer today